Abuse within the church - a statement at Passiontide

 “horrifying to a huge degree, because you see this extraordinary and atrocious willingness to turn a blind eye to things going very, very seriously wrong, and entirely damaging human beings for their whole lifetimes”

These are the words of Archbishop Justin.

He was speaking about the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child sexual abuse and specifically its findings on abuse within the Church of England.

Archbishop Justin also said that he felt ashamed of the church.

The inquiry heard how the leaders of our church failed to take appropriate action to safeguard the vulnerable and failed to respond properly to survivors of abuse.

The action or lack of action of each individual formed part of a collective sin which, Archbishop Justin believes the church will answer for at the day of judgement.

We are about to hear again the story of the passion of Christ.

We will hear that Christ was abused.  We will hear that Christ was falsely accused.  We will hear that Christ died, as indeed some who were abused died, taking their own lives in despair at being ignored and not being believed.

Also in the story of the passion of Christ we will hear about religious leaders, who were concerned about the impact that Jesus was having on the religious institutions which they led and resolved to get rid of him.

The shame that Justin has expressed is, in part, a shame that the church has allowed itself to edge away from the cross and become more like the religious leaders who sent Jesus to be abused and killed.

Every year Christians embark on a Lenten journey.  Our Lenten journey takes us to the cross.  It is a time for re-evaluating our lives in the light of what the cross means for us and for all humanity. 

This year the Church of England has been on a very particular Lenten journey.  It has been a period of brutal reflection and self-evaluation.  It has led to an Archbishop of Canterbury saying at a public inquiry that he is ashamed of the Church of England.  Once again, Christians stand before the cross, having examined their lives and find they are in desperate need of the grace of God.

It was essential that Justin was unambiguously penitent before the Inquiry last week.  Above all, survivors of abuse needed to hear the penitence of the church.

But I am able to say something to you now that Justin could not say.

After Good Friday, comes Easter and the transformation that Easter brings.

I began my training and formation to become a priest almost six years ago. 

Safeguarding training was an important part of my training and it was delivered very well.  My fellow ordinands included doctors, social workers, teachers, NHS staff and survivors of abuse, who all had a lot to contribute to our understanding of what an organisation has to do to keep vulnerable people safe and give would-be abusers no room to operate in.

Then when I was ordained deacon I was required to attend some more safeguarding training.  The overwhelming majority of ministers showed a great understanding of the issues involved and a great deal of commitment to building a church that is free of abuse.

A very small minority of long-serving priests who attended this training did not show this understanding and commitment.  It is my understanding that this small minority are being identified and given help and support.  It is my prayer that they too will be transformed.

The followers of Jesus were transformed when they encountered the risen Christ and realised who he was.  He was not a religious leader concerned to protect his institution.  He was falsely accused, horribly abused and cruelly killed.  We will hear the story of his passion now.  May this story transform our church and transform the lives we live together.




Page last updated: 12th Jul 2018 12:28 PM